Is “lo’lo ikta” Jargon?

round thing

(Image credit: Wikipedia)

This one might strengthen Franz Boas’s observations about Shoalwater-Clatsop Lower Chinookan…

Boas discusses how very differently adjective words operate from what you’ll see in European languages like English. Basically, they’re verbs in Chinookan! But on page 637 of his 1910 “Sketch” Boas says this:

lolo ikta

…I have found very few cases only in which these words are clearly used as adjectives [i.e. as “attributive” modifiers of a noun; two examples follow, including this one]:

lōʹlo ikta something round [page 127 of Boas’ book “Chinook Texts”, line 5]

This example might be rare Lower Chinookan, but it’s normal and perfect Chinuk Wawa: lúʔlu-íkta ’round thing’.


We know that Charles Cultee, the Chinookan speaker who provided all of Boas’s data on this language, also spoke Chinook Jargon. In fact Cultee and Boas communicated via CJ throughout their process of working together, with Boas laboriously taking down myth stories in the language because felt it was the best way to quickly get lots of “authentic old” material.

So I believe the above example is just a brief interpolation of the Jargon into Chinookan. This type of thing happened all the time. We see obvious Jargon loans in published collections of texts in Kalapuyan, Coos, Kwak’wala, all sorts of Pacific NW languages.

I admit, there are certain kinds of expressions in Chinookan that are sequences of [Modifier + ikta].

You have demonstrative pronoun forms like xíx íkta ‘this thing’ (“Texts” 1894:117) and qíx íkta (page 138). This is the only type of direct modification of íkta that I have definitely found in Lower Chinookan.

You do also find níkšt íkta… ‘nothing’ (literally ‘not thing’; e.g. 1894:93). But my understanding of Chinookan is that that’s not a phrase, but instead the coincidence of Negators and WH-question words both needing to be in the same location. (I.e. at the start of sentences.)

But in fact, if you want to quantify ‘thing’ in the language, it appears that you use not íkta but tán ‘(some)thing’, as in íxt-ka tán ‘one-only thing’ (1894:175).

After searching through how these words are used in “Chinook Texts”, I have the sense that the modifier+noun phrase ’round thing’ lúʔlu-íkta is indeed easiest explained as a drop of Jargon into the flow of Lower Chinookan.

And that means fewer exceptions to Franz Boas’s observed rules of Chinookan grammar!

qʰáta máyka tə́mtəm?
What do you think?